The spotlight on the allurements of Kathmandu and Bhaktapur has ensured a continuous flow of tourist traffic all year long. The local populace has stepped up to enhance these experiences by delving deep into their ancient traditions and showcased them in a visitor-friendly environment.
UNESCO and the Buddha
While we are pretty familiar with Hindu Nepal's many intriguing aspects, the country is also closely linked to Buddhism. There are places here that are connected to Buddha's birth and his family history. At Kathmandu, you will discover the globally renowned Boudnath Stupa, acclaimed by UNESCO as an important world cultural heritage site. You will have the privilege of exploring this stupa, amongst the world's largest, with a monk who will provide you with great insights into the Buddhist faith and the secret world of a Buddhist Buddhist monastery. You can participate in the moving lighting of the butter lamps ceremony; what is even more rewarding about the tour is a senior monk will bless you.
Essential to the Kathmandu experience is an exploration of its culturally endowed surroundings. Highly recommended are bike tours of village Chobhar, famous for its panoramic views of Kathmandu Valley. The Chobar Gorge provides spectacular views of the Bagmati River as it bids farewell to the valley. At Kirtipur village, you will soak in Nepal's Newari culture; the Newari are the indigenous people of the Kathmandu Valley. You can also make stopovers at Kirtipur Bazaar, the Chilamchu Stupa and the temple of Bagh Bhairav. Do tuck into a lunch of traditional local delicacies while enjoying those superb views of the Himalayan snow peaks.
The medieval town of Bhaktapur sends out an inviting message of an ancient culture that has stood the test of time. Unforgettable vignettes of this serene town include the Palace of 55 Windows in the Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; it dates to the rule of King Bhupatindra Malla in 1754. The palace is named after the number of ornate windows, a unique architectural feature of the royal residence. Do spend moments browsing through the National Art Gallery housed here. You will discover another window opening up on Nepal's olden days. Of interest too is the Golden Gate, which is a masterpiece in repousse art. Several temples crowd the precincts here. Take time to watch the artisans at work at Bolachhen, the Potter's Square. Pottery is one of Bhakatapur' most important local crafting traditions.
Dining with a Shilpkar
A rare and immeasurably enriching evening awaits you in the home of a Shilpkar at Bhaktapur. Shilpakars are amongst the oldest clans in Bhaktapur and have been long renowned for their fantastic wood crafting skills. These traditional woodcarvers are also experimenting with traditional techniques to create modern aesthetic woodcraft embellishments for the Kathmandu Valley's traditional architecture. This exceptional ancestral heritage is richly documented in ornate columns, eaves, windows, and door frames marked by meticulously carved figures of gods and goddesses. You will learn all this over a traditional Nepalese dinner.
Kathmandu and Bhaktapur have many more secrets to reveal, and it only fits that one makes definite plans to return to uncover these hidden gems.